A breakout season for these SA players
It’s been a breakout season for several players in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship who have risen to the challenge of the north and produced some of the best rugby of their careers.
With the abundance of South African talent on display, it’s hard to narrow it down. Vodacom Bulls skipper Marcell Coetzee has produced some of the best rugby of his career while thriving as a leader in his team, and his
teammate Kurt-Lee Arendse has been electric, lock Ruan Nortjé has played his way into Springbok reckoning, and Canan Moodie has been a find for the future.
Look elsewhere amongst the SA teams and there’s been a similar sense of excellence this season. The irrepressible Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi, the talisman that is Warrick Gelant, the rise and rise of Jordan Hendrikse
and Morné van den Berg, Evan Roos and “that Tweet” from Rassie Erasmus – there are too many to mention.
But with the league phase of the competition done and the playoffs looming, these are some of the players who’ve truly distinguished themselves as major forces for the south this season.
Nothing says you’ve been noticed more than a move from the Emirates Lions to the Springbok-laden Cell C Sharks, and repeated questions about that South African passport you should be working on for a possible Springbok call-up.
Tshituka has been exceptional this season, claiming the most Man of the Match awards and becoming the first forward in the competition to be named the Player of the Month.
“Tireless on attack and defence” and “Physically strong and skilled” are some of the accolades that have come the flanker’s way this season.
It’s been a watershed season for the Vodacom Bulls winger, who has added a massive amount of maturity to his raw talent. So much so that he caught the eye of French Top 14 club Bordeaux and will be joining them after the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.
“As I’ve grown, I’ve come to realise that the more my mindset is shifted towards just going into a game and being the best version of myself I can be to help the team, that’s far better for me than focusing on individual goals,” Tambwe says of his evolution in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.
He received no higher praise than from former Springbok and respected commentator Bob Skinstad.
“He’s got to be close to playing for the Springboks at some stage, depending on his eligibility,” said Skinstad.
“Madosh is big, strong and fast. He’s finishing well and making big tackles, and isn’t making too many huge
defensive errors. I really hope to gets to spend some time around the Boks because he’s got the speed and strength to be a real asset there.”
It’s hard to argue with cold, hard numbers.
Libbok finished the league phase of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship as the competition’s leading points scorer.
The fact that South African players dominated four of the top five positions here is bragging rights for another day.
Libbok has been a revelation this season. Moving from the Vodacom Bulls to the Cell C Sharks, he’s clearly found his home and his form with the DHL Stormers.
“When have you last seen a South African 10 like that?” has been one of the comments coming out of the north.
There are indeed many who believe Libbok epitomises the next generation of Springbok flyhalves.
EDWILL VAN DER MERWE
One of the true inspirations for an Emirates Lions team that faced many challenges in their debut Vodacom United Rugby Championship season.
His move from the DHL Stormers to the Emirates Lions early in the competition brought out a true gem of a player who exemplifies the new “X Factor” South African rugby player Springbok legend Jean de Villiers is excited about.
“The sometimes conservative and always physical approach is part of our rugby DNA and will continue to be so. But in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, we’re now building on this with the rise of and greater opportunities being created for X Factor players such as Kurt-Lee Arendse, Warrick Gelant, Makazole Mapimpi and Edwill van der Merwe. They’re coming to the fore even more and scoring tries.”